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The guidance of retinal ganglion cell axons has been investigated in embryos of the frog Xenopus. During the initial development of the brain a series of axon tracts are laid down forming a basic 'scaffold' or framework. Retinal axons grow through one of these tracts, the tract of the post-optic commissure (tPOC). This is the only tract that extends through the rostral part of the brain at these early stages of development. The origin and development of the tPOC has been studied using antibodies which label neurons at their earliest stages of differentiation. The first sign of the tPOC is a chain of neurons which differentiate simultaneously in the caudolateral part of the diencephalon. Axons from these neurons grow the short distance between adjacent cells interlinking the chain to form a descending tract. A series of other axon projections are then added to the tPOC, each of which is segregated into a particular subregion of the tract. Retinal axons are added to the tract approximately 18 h after its formation. They grow in the sub-pial part of the tract and always occupy the rostral-most edge. Retinal axons follow the tract to the region of the developing tectum where they leave, turn dorsally, and terminate. The reliance of retinal axons on this pre-existing pathway has been demonstrated by experimentally altering the course of the tPOC during its early development. The caudo-lateral wall of the diencephalon has been rotated through 90 degrees at a stage just before the tPOC neurons differentiate. Confirmation of the predicted alteration in the course of the tPOC has been made using immunocytochemistry. In such manipulated brains, retinal axons maintain their strong affinity for the rostral edge of the tPOC, following its altered course through the diencephalon.


Journal article


Dev Suppl

Publication Date



Suppl 2


95 - 104


Animals, Axons, Brain, Cell Movement, Central Nervous System, Retina, Superior Colliculi, Xenopus